Monday, June 12, 2006
The artist formerly known as Shaq
This is the look Shaq saw most of the night. Two seven footers preventing him from even thinking about offense, and chumps like Antoine Walker standing out beyond the three point arc waiting to brick a three, or turn it over on a drive. This lead to Shaqs lowest output in the finals of his career of only 5 points. The new story of this is going to be, "yeesh, when did Shaq get old on us?". He put up some solid performances before this, including the throw back 26-16 in the Detroit series. He also protected the paint a lot better in the Eastern playoffs. But now he's got to deal with more height and more quickness and the creakiness is showing badly. He can't do anything about Dirk when he drives to the tin, and Mavericks have multiple players who can all finish around the basket better than most players the Heat faced in the East. In addition, O'Neal is shooting free throws worse than at any time in his career. And when he was frustrated by the Dallas defense last night, it was sad to watch him forcing up shots with no hope of going in.
The standard comeback rules apply here. After a blowout the humiliated team usually comes back strong. But this Dallas team is more talented, and troubling for Miami, has the confidence and the know-how to get the job done. Miami needs to win the next three games at home to have any hope in this series, and I just don't see that happening. Especially with Udonis Haslem getting injured.
So with this series we will bid Shaq adieu. He'll play for a few more years to be sure. And the Heat will go deep into the playoffs with Wade carrying much of the load. But the days of Diesel dominance are definitely over.